Apple aims to make Apple Watch more engaging

Aiming to regain its market share in the wearables market, Apple introduced the Apple Watch Series 2, with snazzy new features for gaming and fitness.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer
Image: Apple

Apple unveiled Apple Watch Series 2 on Wednesday, a revamped device complete with snazzy new features for gaming and fitness, such as a Pokemon Go app and water resistance, all with the aim of recapturing Apple's shrinking share of the still-nascent wearables market.

"We think Apple Watch is the ultimate device for a healthy life, and we expect it to be popular with everybody," said CEO Tim Cook.

The Apple Watch Series 2, running on watchOS 3, is water resistant up to 50 meters, the industry standard for a swim watch. "You can wear it whether you're swimming or surfing or just doing that occasional cannon ball," Cook said.

To achieve this level of water resistance, Apple sealed all the entry points on the smartwatch except its speaker, which ejects the water at the end of a user's workout. To ensure its durability, Apple tested it through hundreds of hours of simulated swimming strokes. The company also conducted extensive testing to craft what Cook said is the most accurate measurement of calories burned while swimming.

The Series 2 also comes with built-in GPS. "With Apple Watch you can literally hit start and begin your workout," Cook said, getting accurate pace and distance measurements, as well as a route map.

Apple Watch Series 2 first look: Apple's September 7 event

In keeping with the fitness theme, Apple is teaming up with Nike to produce a special version of the Series 2 called Apple Watch Nike+, with an app tailored for runners. Meanwhile, Niantic Labs CEO John Hanke framed the Pokemon app as fitness-related as well.

"Pokemon trainers collectively have walked more than 4.6 billion kilometers while playing the game," he said, adding that it's "about having fun outside with your family and friends". Playing with the smartwatch, he said, allows you "to focus "less on your screen and more on the stuff around you".

Apple is hoping the smartwatch reboot will catch the attention of consumers who have so far passed on the wearable device. The original Apple Watch received a mixed response upon its launch last year but has received strong user-satisfaction ratings, as Cook noted Wednesday.

The Apple Watch, he said, "has really changed what people expect from a watch". While the Apple Watch only shipped for eight months in 2015, it became the No. 2 watch brand in the world, Cook noted.

Even so, its sales have slumped. In the second quarter of this year, IDC reports that Apple Watch shipments tanked nearly 58 percent year over year, shrinking Apple's share of the global wearables market from 20 percent to 7 percent. Meanwhile, as Apple contends with the growing popularity of basic wearable devices -- simple fitness bands with no third-party applications -- it also has to compete with an increasing number of other sophisticated smartwatches, from other technology companies and traditional watch companies.

Cook argued Wednesday, "Apple Watch has set a very high bar about what a modern watch can be, but we are just getting started."

The Series 2 has a dual-core processor, making it 50-percent faster, and a new GPU with twice the graphics performance. It also features a new, second-generation display that is more than two times brighter than before -- the brightest display Apple has ever shipped on any product at 1,000 nits. It "makes all the difference when you're outside in the bright sunlight", Cook said.

Series 2 comes in a variety of styles, with cases in aluminum and stainless steel, as well as a new material -- ceramic. The white Apple Watch in ceramic is four times harder than stainless steel. Apple also announced new Hermes models and new bands.

The new watch is priced at $369. Meanwhile, the original Apple Watch is getting an upgrade: Adding the same dual-core processor found in Series 2, the watch will be repackaged as Series 1 and sold starting at $269.

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